"What is especially troubling is that while Greg Abbott's office has prosecuted minority seniors for simply mailing ballots, he has not prosecuted anyone on the other side of the aisle for what appear to be open and shut cases of real voter fraud," Hebert told Texas House Elections Committee, on January 25, 2008, as the panel held a hearing on a bill making the state's voter I.D. laws tougher.
Hebert cited a 2005 election in Highland Park, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country with hundreds of million-dollar homes and where both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lived before the 2000 election. In 2005, two election judges, both Republicans, and a 10-year-old boy handed out over 100 ballots, Hebert testified, without checking any voter registration cards or IDs. The ballots were filled out and turned in, he said, quoting from several Dallas District Attorney memos that suggested there was a strong basis for prosecuting the judges for not following procedures and counting "over 100 more ballots" that there were "signatures on the roster."
In other words, here was a serious case of apparent ballot box stuffing -- voter fraud -- by Republicans, albeit in a state where the GOP holds all the constitutional offices, most judgeships and controls most county election boards.
"Here we are nearly three years later and Attorney General Abbott's office has done virtually nothing," Hebert told Texas legislators. "Rather than exercise his discretion to act directly on the [district attorney's] request and immediately investigate the voting irregularities and potential voter fraud in Highland Park, Mr. Abbott's office has instead used his office's resources to prosecute elderly political activists whose only 'crime' was assisting elderly and disabled voters cast a vote by mail."
The bigger picture, said the Lone Star Project's Turner, was the Texas Republican Party, assisted by the state's Republican attorney general, was using the power of the state and public funds to create a climate for partisan gain.
"I don't believe that the Attorney General or the Governor or the Republicans are really interested in putting old women in jail," she said. "They see what we all see and what everybody has written about, which is Texas is trending majority minority [where the majority of voters is no longer white]. And the Republicans haven't figured out how to talk to minorities. So, instead of figuring out how to talk to them on an issue basis, they have embarked on a plan to shave two or three percentage points off the electorate and that's how they stay in power."
This is part of a larger effort to cut down on minority voting by several schemes, the most publicized being the Voter ID laws.
Voting fraud takes place, no question, and God knows Texas has spawned its share. (Landslide Lyndon?) But mostly it’s done by manipulating mail-in and absentee ballots, not by impostors showing up at the polls. For its 2006 report on voter fraud, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission interviewed an impressive roster of lawyers, elected officials, and experts. “Many asserted that impersonation of voters is probably the least frequent type of fraud because it is the most likely type of fraud to be discovered,” the commission reported.The Texas Lone Star Project is the place to go to for info on the Texas voter suppression schemes of the GOP.
Solving this problem that doesn’t exist, however, has some pernicious side effects that happen to benefit Republicans. It makes voting harder for people without driver’s licenses, people without enough money to track down birth certificates, people intimidated by signs that would be posted at polling places warning that voter fraud is a crime. People, in other words, who tend to be poor or minority, and tend to vote Democratic. (Not to mention Democrats, who are just prone to lose things.)
Recent news reports have documented how the Bush administration’s Justice Department used federal law to suppress voter turnout in battleground states as part of a purported effort to root out fraud. State-by-state voter i.d. bills are part and parcel of the party’s effort to win elections by disqualifying voters who might disagree with it.
There is a tradition in Texas, still continuing, of some politicians taking advantage of elderly voters. That does not mean that citizens who are legally helping the elderly to vote should be chased down by GOP goon squads as Abbott deployed to harass and spy on elderly good citizens.
Tags: Texas, voter suppression, mail-in ballots, Greg Abbott, voter ID